Updated: Aug 13, 2020
Article by Kennedy Keown
Like all fashion enthusiasts and stylists, Mindy Scheier – a fashion designer and mother of a child with a disability – had a dream and a mission. At the beginning of her career, she wanted to be “the next Betsey Johnson, a global brand, the next major designer to hit our world.” Mindy Scheier has worked in the fashion industry for over 20 years. She was a key member of the design for the INC collection, as well as a stylist for Saks Fifth Ave in New York City. Scheier, also a devoted mother, used her love for inspiring children and influencing fashion to start Future Fashionistas, a fashion design school for kids.
An epiphany came to Scheier one evening from her own son. Scheier’s middle child Oliver was born with a rare form of Rigid Spine Muscular Dystrophy, of which there are only 70 known cases. Oliver’s disability causes him the inability to dress himself and clothing challenges due to muscle weakness. “Our solution was that he wore sweatpants every day,” says Mindy Scheier during the Runway of Dreams Las Vegas show. But one day after school, Oliver returned home and told his mother that he wanted to wear a pair of jeans.
“The very thing that I loved was to get dressed every day, and this was the very thing that caused him pain, anxiety, and frustration every day… it was such as aha moment in my life that here I was, thinking about what I was gonna wear the next day, and I didn’t stop for a second to think about the power of clothing. To think about the fact that Oliver wearing sweatpants every day made him feel like he was dressing disabled. So, you bet Oliver went into school wearing jeans the next day. When I showed him these jeans that I modified, he lit up. He was filled with joy. His confidence changed, and his self-esteem changed. What an amazing power clothing has.” (Mindy Scheier, Runway of Dreams Las Vegas)
This wonderfully ironic experience with her son sparked her next passion and the Runway of Dreams Foundation was born. The Runway of Dreams Foundation (RWODF) – started in 2014 by Scheier – is a non-profit organization that works toward a future of inclusion, acceptance, and opportunity in the fashion industry for people with disabilities. Founded on the basis that clothing is a basic human need, the Runway of Dreams Foundation develops, delivers, and supports charitable initiatives to broaden the reach of adaptive clothing and promote the differently-abled community in the fashion industry. Through adaptive clothing donations, employment opportunity initiatives, adaptive design workshops, awareness-building campaigns, and scholarship programs, the Runway of Dreams Foundation is empowering people with disabilities with opportunity, confidence, independence, and style.
The Foundation develops, delivers, and supports programs and events that celebrate people’s differences, break down stereotypes, and highlight the need for mainstream adaptive fashion. Through campaigns, story-telling initiatives, and collaborations with celebrities and the media, the Foundation elevates the many voices of the differently-abled community, giving them a mainstream presence. Further, by bringing visibility to disability in fashion campaigns and runway shows, the Foundation is shining a light on this community for the world to see and appreciate (runwayofdreams.org). RWODF has partnered in collaboration with top designers, such as Tommy Hilfiger, Zappos, and more to create adaptive clothing for individuals with special needs and disabilities.
Interested in becoming involved with the Runway of Dreams and their mission for inclusion? Here’s your chance! The Runway of Dreams Foundation has made its way to Bloomington, Indiana with a brand-new club here at Indiana University. Grace Burton, the current club president, created the club this previous year, alongside IU faculty Dr. Jennifer Piatt. “I wanted to find and create something that I was really passionate about and Dr. Piatt helped me get in contact with the right people, such as the Foundation and Zappos Adaptive. They were really eager to push Runway of Dreams and adaptive fashion onto college campuses in a club format,” said Ms. Burton when asked how Runway of Dreams IU got its start. “We haven’t been able to do or get much word out about the club just yet. It was just so brand-new and we wanted to make sure that we followed the Runway of Dreams Foundation protocol and handbook guidelines. But, we’re hoping with holding the first-ever college campus Runway of Dreams, we can spread the word and continue to grow.”
Grace Burton is very passionate and dedicated to adaptive fashion. She described, “As a future recreational therapist, why has this never been considered a topic or issue in our field? I mean, think about it – we will be working with individuals with special needs and disabilities to do the many activities that they want to do. That could be hiking, skiing, swimming, recreational sports, and much more. Adaptive clothing is needed and crucial to these kinds of activities.” Ms. Burton sees Runway of Dreams IU having a prominent future on Indiana University Bloomington campus. “Like all clubs, we will start out small. But my vision and what I see happening for us is extravagant. I hope that once the word spreads and everyone sees how much adaptive clothing can benefit, boost, change a person’s life, our organization can grow to the size of IUDM.”
If you’re interested in Runway of Dreams IU or getting behind the Adaptive and Inclusive Clothing Movement, it is never too late. “I’d love to see everyone on campus get involved. Our club and what we stand for isn’t only for Recreational Therapy majors, or healthcare majors, and any targeted major. I’d love to see business marketing, fashion design, graphic design, and more majors get involved, as well,” says Burton.
The first-ever, college campus ran, Runway of Dreams will be held Friday, November 8 at 7:30 pm. It will be located in the Grand Hall of the Neal-Marshall Black Cultural Center. Student tickets are only $10 and can be purchased at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/runway-of-dreams-at-indiana-university-fashion-show-tickets-70574723899
If you’re interested in becoming a member of the Runway of Dreams IU club, you can email President Grace Burton at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Jennifer Piatt at email@example.com for more information. The Runway of Dreams Foundation takes monetary donations at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/runway-of-dreams-at-iu-x-zappos-adaptive